Healthcare in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is credited with having one of the best healthcare systems in the world and expats will have access to world-class facilities and highly qualified medical professionals.

The healthcare system in the Netherlands is one of the few in the world that blurs the distinction between private and public care. The government funds all long-term health treatment through tax, while private companies cover short-term treatment. 

What makes the system unique is that Dutch medical schemes have to offer certain basic services for a monthly fee and aren't allowed to refuse anyone based on risk. Belonging to a scheme is compulsory for all residents, including expats with permanent residency. Private schemes are also partially funded by employers.

Healthcare facilities in the Netherlands

High standards and specialist treatments can be found at medical facilities in the Netherlands. Hospitals are normally university hospitals or are run by religious or community organisations. All hospitals offer similar facilities and services, but some specialise in particular areas of treatment.

Most doctors understand English, but expats often complain that local doctors lack sympathy and are reluctant to prescribe medications unless absolutely essential. This largely stems from the general non-interventionist approach adopted by most Dutch medical practitioners.

Expats should try to find a general practitioner (GP) as soon as possible after they arrive. They're normally busy and it can be difficult to find one who has space for more patients. After finding a doctor, expats will need to register with him or her.

It’s important to note that the Dutch healthcare system is divided into different tiers, with GPs forming a large part of the first tier, and it isn't possible to visit a specialist, on the second tier, without a doctor's referral. 

Pharmacies in the Netherlands

Pharmacies (apotheken) are plentiful in the Netherlands and stock both prescription and non-prescription medications. They're generally open from Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 5.30pm. Some are open on Saturday and after hours, and there's usually a notice on the pharmacy door with details of the nearest all-night and Sunday pharmacies.

Health insurance in the Netherlands

All residents and tax payers in the Netherlands are required to have medical insurance from a private health insurance company.

All insurers are required to provide the same basic coverage, which is decided on by the government. Basic coverage usually includes services by GPs, hospital stays, medical specialists and obstetricians, most medicines, prenatal care and maternity programmes, and ambulance services.

Health insurers are not allowed to deny coverage to any person who applies for a standard insurance package and all policyholders must be charged the same premium, regardless of their age or state of health. 

Some medical services, such as dentistry and physiotherapy, are not covered by the basic insurance plans, and additional health insurance is optional to cover such costs. Medical schemes are able to charge as much as they want for coverage of these services and they are also allowed to exclude customers at their discretion.

Emergency services in the Netherlands

Several private ambulance services are contracted to the Dutch government and operate within a particular service area. Response times are good.

The emergency number for an ambulance in the Netherlands is 112. This is free from any phone.